It’s been a little over three months since we launched Greek City Times (GCT) and I thought now is a good time to introduce myself and let you all know part (please note the word ‘part’ otherwise I would be writing an entire book) of the reason I personally chose to take on this role as Editor in Chief.
I was born to Greek parents who migrated to Australia- and like a lot of you out there- Greek was my first language.
To give you a better understanding of my upbringing- I was blessed to grow up in a large and close-knit family. My parents live in the same street as my Mum’s twin sister, eldest sister, her brother, Koumbaroi and other family friends in between- my grandparents also lived there before passing. All up there are about 14 Greek families in the same street – yes, it’s like a small Greek village in the heart of Sydney.
Every day was spent either hearing Greek, speaking Greek, learning Greek, eating Greek, singing Greek or dancing Greek- that was a huge part of my childhood.
All of my Dad’s family though were and still are in Greece- so like many Greeks abroad, I have a whole bunch of aunties, uncles and cousins on the other side of the world- who I equally love.
To cut a long story short (if that’s possible) I will never forget my first trip to Greece as an adult.
I was 20 years of age, second year of university and couldn’t wait to book my ticket to hit the Greek islands with my cousins and close friends- to do what people of that age enjoy doing most- party!
1997 was the year. I remember flying with Olympic Airways (in the days when smoking was allowed on planes) and after a 24-hour flight, we arrived at Athens airport. We walked through customs and there was no one behind the counter to stamp our passport, nor to check our luggage- so we walked straight out, and headed for a cab. When we put our seatbelts on, the taxi driver laughed and said “Μην αγχωνεστε” (don’t stress).
So yes, it took me an entire 20 minutes to throw out all the rules and regulations I was used to back in Australia and set myself into ‘relaxed’ Greek mode for the next 6 weeks.
Through the eyes of a 20-year old- I was blown away by the lifestyle, nightlife, islands, bars, clubs, beaches, cafes, shops, which were packed day and night. I loved meeting all the locals and Greek diaspora- including Americans, Canadians, Germans, South Africans and other Aussies who felt just as passionate about this beautiful country where their parents and grandparents were also born.
More so, I was blessed to spend more time with my 94-year-old Yiayia, in my Dad’s village in Messenia and that is where I had my cathartic moment.
There I stood in 1997 as a 20-year old in the country where my parents were born and raised- on holidays, loving every moment, feeling invincible and never wanting to leave.
At this very same spot in 1965, at the age of 20, my father was standing there, ready to say goodbye to his parents and move away from his small village- to arrive in a foreign country (on the other side of the world) not for a vacation but to begin his journey, in the hope of a better future.
It was right then and there I realised how quickly life changes- from one generation to the next- and how important it was to learn as much as I could about my parents and forefather’s life in Greece.
I spent endless hours talking to my beautiful Yiayia (who I was named after) asking her questions about her upbringing in the village. This lady had never stepped foot outside of the horio and few surrounding villages- yet was such a remarkable, strong and smart woman. Having lived through war, poverty and tragedy- at the age of 94- she was still sharp and had vast knowledge to share.
Yiayia was way ahead of her era- having married my Pappou 6 years her junior (a taboo at the time) yet outlived him by a good 12 years. She had never taken medicine, not one tablet her entire life- thanks to her amazing Greek diet, consisting of home grown vegetables, fruit, olive oil, mountain tea and not to mention the fresh air she breathed everyday- at her 850 metre altitude mountainous village. She lived to the age of 97.
Fast forward to 2016 and Greece has changed. The world has changed. But I believe it’s so important to share these kinds of stories and memories, which highlight Greece’s history, culture, traditions and the way of life back then- in order for our children and future generations to also learn and understand their roots.
Now as a μαμα (mum), Θεια (auntie) and νουνα (godmother) to so many little ones- I really hope our kids share the same passion for their Greek heritage and have a burning desire to visit Greece, as often as they can.
I feel as though it is part of my duty as Editor of a Greek related website to try and encourage all children of the Greek diaspora to feel proud of their background and to speak to them in a ‘voice’ they can also relate to.
Nowadays, we are consumed by the internet and social media- and instead of fighting it, we need to work with it and use this tool to inform people (of all ages) around the world about Greece’s rich history, culture, traditions and customs- in amongst the news, entertainment, sport and other things we report on.
This is what I keep in mind every day I walk into the GCT office.